The difference between natural and organic cosmetics is complex because the term “natural” can have many different meanings while “organic” is far more standardized. When a cosmetic or personal care product is identified as natural, it is impossible for a consumer to determine what actually makes the cosmetic different from other commercially available products without a definition provided by its manufacturer. On the other hand, in many jurisdictions, if a product claims to be organic, its ingredients must have been grown on a farm or plantation that has been certified by a recognized organic standards organization. While there may be some overlap between natural and organic products, many commercially available cosmetics are likely to contain a mix of ingredients from synthetic, organic, and non-organic sources. Consumers should also be aware that natural and organic cosmetics may not necessarily be safer to use than other products.
Many consumer advocates regularly point out that, in the United States as well as in other countries, product manufacturers can claim that their products were made from natural ingredients without having to provide evidence for this claim. There are, however, some companies that do take steps to explain that their products may be free of artificial preservatives or that they may include essential oils; herbal extracts; or fats from vegetable, seed, or even animal sources.
Organic cosmetics, on the other hand, typically contain ingredients that have been grown under organic conditions. The standards for organic certification can vary between certifying agencies, but organic ingredients are typically grown using sustainable methods and minimal, if any, chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In some cases, a cosmetic or personal care product may contain a combination of both organic and non-organic ingredients. Many people choose to purchase organic products because they're concerned about the impact of some farming methods on the environment.
The choice to purchase natural and organic cosmetics is largely an individual one. Many people feel more comfortable using products that are organically grown or that contain plant-based ingredients. Some cosmetic industry critics warn, however, that it is quite possible to experience an allergic reaction from using products that contain herbs, flowers, and other similar ingredients. Consumers should also consider the formulation of any natural and organic cosmetics that they purchase, as these designations do not ensure that the product is of high quality or will work well. Instead, the consumer should apply whatever standards he or she uses for choosing other types of cosmetics to those bearing the organic or natural label.